Liz Nicholls chats to Simon Clinton, founder of Save Wild Tigers, about the plight of this critically endangered big cat and events this month supported by our brightest stars…
As if stepping up to dance, two 11-month-old tiger cubs begin play-fighting in India’s Ranthambhore National Park. This stunning photo (above), taken by Andy Rouse in 2015, captures the poetic, almost impossible beauty of these creatures. However, the sad truth is fewer than 3,800 tigers exist in the wild today as poaching and habitat loss push them to the brink of extinction.
“It’s about more than just tigers, as much as I love them,” Simon Clinton tells me. “I’m quoting David Attenborough because he said it best: it’s a moral question about whether we humans have the right to exterminate a species, leave a world that’s more impoverished than the one we inherited, simply because of our own carelessness and greed as a species.”
Simon has done more than just wax lyrical about the plight of wild tigers, whose numbers have fallen by 97%. He grew up in Malaysia, which is home to the oldest rainforest in the world, and first encountered tigers as a child in the early 1970s.
Ten years ago, Simon was working in marketing and advertising, producing TV ads for brands such as The Happy Egg Co. Having always been passionate about conservation, he was asked to help market and launch Europe’s first ever tiger art exhibition, at London’s Asia House. “Only then did the irony hit me that this stunning tiger-inspired art exhibition, with some of the pieces dating back thousands of years, could soon be the only way in which we see tigers,” he says. “Art and pictures… could this really be the legacy we leave our future generations if we do not act quickly? What chance have we got of saving the countless other species that will inevitably follow in the tiger’s tracks towards extinction; the elephants, the rhinos, the lions? The list goes on. If we can’t win this battle, the consequences are too unbearable to imagine.”
Indeed, he has acted quickly from that point. Save Wild Tigers, which is a non-profit organisation, has forged links with NGO partners, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Born Free Foundation to help combat the murky and dangerous £20bn illegal wildlife trade in products such as tiger bone, wine and fur, as well as raising funds and awareness about the importance of sustainable palm oil whose production also threatens the future of the orangutan and rhinos. Simon has also won the hearts of stars including Jaime Winstone (pictured above with a Swarovski tiger as featured in Vogue) who is an ambassador of Save Wild Tigers along with shoe designer Jimmy Choo. Other star supporters of the cause include Stephen Fry and also Joanna Lumley and Brian May who took part in the world’s largest tiger event, Tiger Tracks, at St Pancras International in 2013.
“Globally, the symbolism and imagery of the tiger has long been used for marketing and resulting commercial gain across numerous brands such as petrol, fashion, beer, the list is endless,” adds Simon. “Now it is time to bring the power of marketing and creativity to inspire all to help save this magnificent species from extinction. The tiger is more than just the charismatic animal we see on TV. It is a keystone species that represents the very heart and soul of the jungle.”
Until Sunday, 14th October, you can head to the Royal Albert Hall for Eye On The Tiger, the world’s largest wild tiger photography exhibition. International photographers from the USA, UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Japan, Germany and India, including Steve Winter, Theo Allofs, Thorsten Milse, Toshiji Fukuda, Nick Garbutt, Anish Andheria, Robin Hamilton and Roger Hooper have all generously donated their time and photographic rights to exhibit these beautiful photos.
They are on display in the Amphi Corridor, and can be viewed when attending a performance or on free open days on Friday, 5th, Sunday 7th, Friday 12th and Saturday 13th October, 10am-4pm.
Then, on Saturday, 27th October, Danesfield House Hotel near Marlow will host a star-studded black-tie champagne reception and dinner created by executive head chef Billy Reid and Masterchef winner Ping Coombes (tickets, £170 per person, are selling out very soon).